What You Need to Know
About Feline Aids
Feline aids, or feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), is a complex retrovirus that only cats can contract. It is the same class of virus as HIV (a lentivirus), but it causes immunodeficiency disease in domestic cats (weakening of the immune system).
WHAT CAUSES FIV?
• Cats can contract FIV at time of birth (not as common)
• Cats can contract FIV through (deep) scratch and bite wounds (cat to cat transmission)
• FIV has been found in cat semen, so sexual transmission can cause FIV (uncommon)
Aggressive fights, often caused by territorial disputes, usually lead to cause no.2.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF FIV?
Because the immune system of a feline with FIV cannot respond normally to protect it from threats, there are many possible symptoms.
• Ill frequently• Enlarged lymph nodes
• Inflamed gums and/or nose
• Upper respiratory tract disease
• Lymphoma, among other cancers
• Persistent diarrhea (less common)
• Long-term (chronic) kidney insufficiency
• Eye disease: inflamed front, including iris; glaucoma
• Fever and wasting (more often noticed in later stage)
• Inflammation of the moist tissue of the eye and/or cornea
• Nervous system abnormalities that affect sleeping, behaviour, senses and nerves
• Infections: long-term/recurrent infections (bacterial/fungal) of the external ear and skin
HOW IS FIV DIAGNOSED?
Several tests have to be performed by a veterinarian before diagnosis is possible.
• Physical examination
• Background and medical history check
• Complete blood profile: chemical blood profile, complete blood count and a urinalysis
Bacterial, viral or fungal infections have to be ruled out along with the presence of parasites and tumours.
CAN FIV BE TREATED AND HOW?
Cats with FIV are generally not hospitalised, unless dehydration is an issue. An improved diet may help and infections that can be treated will be prioritised. A tumour or more serious infections may require surgery.
CAN FIV BE CURED?
FIV cannot be cured. It can only managed by treating symptoms as best possible.
HOW CAN FIV BE MANAGED?
A cat with FIV will have to be monitored for the effects of secondary infections and other FIV-related symptoms.
You have to be aware of how severe the symptoms may become and that it can be fatal.
Early detection, however, does increase life expectancy and quality of life.
Average life expectancy from time of diagnosis: 5 years
HOW CAN FIV BE PREVENTED?
• Keep your cat away from cats that may have FIV
• Quarantine and test new cats that are introduced to your house
Some cats are only carriers (may never show symptoms) and vaccinated cats may test positive.
CAN HUMANS GET FIV FROM CATS?
No. FIV only affects felines.